Contrary to popular assumption, the TGA does not have a set list of diseases for which medical marijuana is approved.
If you have tried traditional medications for your symptoms and they either did not completely control them or had side effects, that is all that is required to assess your eligibility.
Contrary to popular belief, medical cannabis does not have to be a last resort. Instead, it cannot be used as a first line of treatment. In order to qualify, you would have to have tried a licensed drug that your doctor would typically recommend for your symptoms.
You would then be considered qualified to try medical cannabis if the prescribed drug is found to be ineffective or has unbearable negative effects.
According to a large body of research, medical marijuana can help lessen the severity of symptoms for a wide range of ailments as well as the intensity of pain associated with a number of conditions.
The following ailments are among those for which medical marijuana has TGA approval as of September 2021:
Anxiety, managing the symptoms of cancer, and chronic pain Multiple sclerosis (MS), Movement disorder, Anorexia, Tremor, Dystonia, Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Mood disorder, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Insomnia, Neuropathic pain, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Sleep disorder, Epilepsy, Seizure management, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Spasticity, Migraine, Depression, Fibromyalgia
Which Medical Marijuana Products Are Available in What Forms?
Currently, there are more than 190 different items accessible in Australia, and more are constantly being introduced. Products can take a variety of forms:
Flowers Oils (for vaporization)
dental strips that dissolve
Topical formulations and creams
As of September 2021, 65% of medical marijuana prescriptions were for oils, making them currently the most prevalent form. In Australia, 23% of medicinal marijuana prescriptions are for flower, the second most prevalent type.
What Formulations of Medical Marijuana Are Prescribed?
- CBD Full Spectrum – the full plant extract containing all the cannabinoids, terpenes and other natural compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant (including very low, nonimpairment levels of THC). A full spectrum is needed to maximize the potential ‘entourage effect.
- CBD Broad Spectrum – is full spectrum CBD that is further refined to remove the trace amounts of THC to accommodate driving laws in Australia. This is a good balance between maximizing the entourage effect potential and being able to legally drive.
- CBD Isolate – is a highly refined product where all the other minor cannabinoids, terpenes and natural compounds contained in cannabis are removed. It’s legal to drive while taking CBD isolate but you lose out on the potential entourage effect. Schedule 3 over-the-counter CBD products will most likely be CBD isolates.
- Balanced – equal parts CBD and THC. This is usually considered when CBD alone is not enough to manage symptoms. Research suggests that some THC is required to help alleviate symptoms of pain.
- THC Dominant – THC is dominant with little to no CBD present.
How Much Does Medical Marijuana Cost in Australia?
Although cost varies depending on each person’s condition, most people on average spend between $4-$8 per day. The cost of medical cannabis in Australia has reduced dramatically over the years.
On a cost per mg basis, product cost depends on the formulation. CBD oils sell for as low as $0.05/mg – substantially lower than many black market, unregulated CBD oils sold online.
Balanced oils and THC oils sell for as low as $0.10/mg. Cannabis flower is usually between $13-$20 per gram depending on the brand and THC level.
To calculate the amount of mg/ml in a bottle of medication you simple divide the total mg claimed on the bottle (i.e. 1000 mg) by the size of the bottle in milliliters (ml).
A 50ml bottle containing 1000mg of CBD would be (1000/50) 20mg/ml.
Many people compare price and bottle size in ml but you need to consider the concentration of the oil as well to compare accurately.
Which Types of Doctors can Prescribe Medical Marijuana?
In Australia, any doctor can prescribe medical marijuana if it is clinically justified. The problem is most doctors don’t view marijuana as a medicine given a long history of stigma and misunderstanding.
Convincing your regular doctor to prescribe medical marijuana can be a challenge. Even if they are open to it, there is lots of paperwork involved given the unregistered status of cannabis medicines.
Doctors usually need to apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) under the Special Access Scheme created for prescribing unregistered medications such as medical marijuana.
Some doctors have applied to be Authorized Prescribers which means they can prescribe a range of medical cannabis products without having to apply to the TGA each time.